The Captain's Garden Kovil | Sunday Observer

The Captain's Garden Kovil

The Captain’s Garden Kovil, is located on Kovil Street, off D.R. Wijewardene Mawatha, Colombo 10 (Maradana). The entrance to Kovil Street is near a popular landmark, the second hand bookshops of D.R. Wijewardene Mawatha and the road goes over the Fort railway lines and ends at the Kovil grounds.

There are two kovils here, the Sri Balaselvanayagam Devasthanam (also called the Sri Bala Vinayaga Moorthy Devasthanam and the Sri Kailasanathar Swamy Devasthanam. The first kovil is dedicated to God Ganapathi or Ganesh while the second one is dedicated to Lord Shiva. These two kovils are supposed to be the oldest kovils in the city of Colombo.

Long ago the land on which the Kovils are was an island surrounded by the waters of the Beira Lake and the devotees came in boats to worship at the kovils. They are supposed to have been built during the second half of the 1770’s during the Dutch period.

The Chettiars were a trader community from India and some of them came and settled in Sri Lanka. They built these kovils to worship.

In those ancient days the area in which the kovils stand was known as ‘Cilamagoda’ and housed warehouses storing cinnamon, pepper, oil, coconut and coir and therefore, was a hive of economic activity.

Legend has it that a Dutch Captain and his wife did not have children. Someone advised them to make a vow at the Kovil. They did so and after they had a child they gifted around three acres to the Kovil. This is how the name Captain’s Garden Kovil originated.

The elaborately decorated gopurams of the kovils can be seen high above the rail tracks. The two kovils are linked by a central courtyard. This arrangement enables devotees to worship both kovils from the courtyard.

The Sri Balaselvanayagam Devasthanam dedicated to Lord Ganesh has vibrant colours. The ceiling is painted with murals and many sculptures adorn it. The Vimanam is made of granite and the inner sanctum holds an ancient statue of Lord Ganesh. A copper plated inscription called a ‘Yendra’ is supposed to be placed under this statue.

The birthday of Lord Ganesh is celebrated with a festival called Avani Shathurthi. Many grand poojas and a chariot procession within the kovil premises will be held during Avani Shathurthi.

The kovil dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Sri Kailasanathar Swamy Devasthanam is larger than the one dedicated to Lord Ganesh and the Shiva lingam is placed in the sanctum.

The chariot festival dedicated to Lord Shiva starts with the hoisting of the flag and ends with the chariot procession.

Statues of other deities of the Hindu Pantheon are placed around the temple premises. A statue of Goddess Kannaki Amman, especially brought from India is placed in a chariot. Sri Lankans worship Goddess Kannaki Amman as Goddess Patthini.

The Captain’s Garden Kovil is known colloquially in Tamil as the Theevu Kovil meaning island temple.

This holy shrine is worshipped not only by Hindus but devotees of other faiths too.